Jeremy Fowler of ESPN is reporting that WR Martavis Bryant's suspension is for marijuana use, the same substance at the root of teammate Le'Veon Bell's suspension.
Martavis Bryant’s suspension is for marijuana use, per source. He’s hoping to hear back on suspension appeal in next 7-10 days #steelers— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 27, 2015
NFL Policies Concerning Substances
If Fowler is right and Bryant's drug of choice was marijuana, his infraction falls under the substance abuse policy. The NFL's current policy on substance abuse includes improper use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, and alcohol. The agreement prohibits the use, possession, and distribution of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, opiates and opiods, MDMA, and PCP. Amphetamines also fall under this policy unless the player has a legitimate documented, legitimate need to treat a medical condition.
There is a separate policy for performance-enhancing substances, also agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA in 2014. That agreement covers the use of anabolic and androgenic steroids, stimulants, human or animal growth hormones, and related substances. It also covers substances such as diuretics and agents that mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs.
For both kinds of substances, players can also be disciplined for refusing to test, failing to test, or manipulating the specimen.
Under the substance abuse policy, players are tested:
- Before they are hired with a new team. This includes testing of draft-eligible players at the scouting combines.
- Preseason at least once between April 20 and August 9.
- At regular, pre-determined intervals if a player is in an intervention program.
- By agreement if the NFL team and the player agree to it as part of his contract and if there is a reason to request such testing.
Alcohol & Breaking the Law
The reason the public doesn't hear about infractions until a suspension is announced is because of rules about confidentiality. Particularly in Stage One, where the only consequences are fines, there is no reason the public would ever know about the infraction. In fact, there are $500,000 fines for people who violate a player's confidentiality when it comes to information about his diagnosis, treatment, test results and participation in the program.
Changes in New Policy
This drug policy is relatively new. Under this CBA, punishments are more harsh for DUIs, while some punishments for marijuana use are lower (e.g. in Stage Three the first infraction for marijuana is now 10 games instead of a year). Also significant, player appeals of drug-related punishments are heard by a neutral arbitrator, not the Commissioner.
What can we assume about Martavis Bryant?
1) He was in Stage Two. We know this since his suspension is 4-games
2) The Stage Two infraction means he could advance to Stage Three where he will face a 10-game suspension for his first marijuana infraction and a longer ban for subsequent violations. We do not know how long he has been in Stage Two.
3) Somebody released confidential information to the press ("the source" who told Fowler it was a marijuana infraction)